In a rather bizarre turn of events earlier in the semester, it was leaked that Waka Flocka Flame would be performing at this years spring weekend concert. In the last two years, BCA has booked artists, specifically hip-hop artists, at pivotal points of their careers. In just the short time since his performance here, Kendrick Lamar has surged into the hip-hop scene and is fighting for the title of best rap artist of our generation, if not all time. Chance, too, has started to collab with bigger names and is receiving more widespread acclaim in mainstream media.
So when I found out about Waka’s spot in the lineup, I was a bit surprised. I couldn’t help thinking back to my freshman year of high school, when I thought blasting “Hard in da Paint” made me cooler than I actually was (let’s not forget I was a chubby kid from the suburbs who thought Waka’s lyrics spoke to me). After reliving my glory days, it became clear to me why my memories of Waka Flocka stopped after my first year in high school: Flame’s last mainstream record success, Flockaveli, was released in 2010.
At first, the BCA’s decision confused me. Why would they book an artist whose career was anything but taking off? That was until I realized that Waka has been steadily producing mixtapes since his major debut, has been collaborating with EDM artists like Steve Aoki, and has become one of the most consistent rap artists of the last five years. Though he has not had as much mainstream success since Flockaveli, Flame has continued to produce and create music. What became clear is that though his career may not be about to leap forward, it has definitely not lost its spotlight it once had. Let’s start in the beginning.
Born in New York, Juaquin Malphurs, aka Waka Flocka Flame, soon relocated to Atlanta, Georgia, where he grew up and eventually developed his sound. Atlanta is often considered the birthplace of trap, and Flocka fit right in, starting his relationship with established trap artist Gucci Mane by the age of 19. In 2009, Flame had his first breakout single, “O Let’s Do It,” which eventually peaked at no. 62 on Bilboard’s Hot 100. This spark launched Flame’s career into the spotlight, and he never looked back. After his initial success, Flocka released his debut album Flockaveli in 2010. With Flockaveli, Flame crashed into the hip-hop scene with unapologetic lyrics about living in the trap and his life as a member of the brick squad (other notable members include Chief Keef and Gucci Mane). Known for its boisterous sound and party anthems, some of the album’s more notable songs include “Hard in da Paint,” “Grove St. Party,” and “No Hands.” The album debuted at no. 6 on Billboard’s Hot 200, and Flame was named the eighth-hottest MC of 2010 by MTV.
Following his success with Flockaveli, Flame continued to produce music, eventually releasing Triple F Life: Friends, Fans & Family. Living up to the success of Flockaveli proved to be difficult, though, and the album received only mediocre ratings despite offering hits like “Rooster in my Rari” and “Round of Applause (ft. Drake).” After Triple F, Flame never regained his acclaim as a solo artist, and has been pushing back an eventual release date for Flockaveli 2. So where does this leave us for Spring Weekend?
Like I said earlier, Waka has continued to push out mixtape after mixtape despite limited success on the mainstream market. From 2010 to 2013, he released seven mixtapes, ranging from Lebron Flocka James to Salute me or Shoot me 3. Though you won’t hear them on the radio, Flame’s consistent output has allowed him to continue touring and creating music. What he has also done is a lesson in self-awareness. After limited success trying to create more mainstream albums, Flocka continued to do what he does best: perform crazy, wild, trap bangers that pretty much anyone can dance to. He has realized that people love songs like “No Hands” and “Hard in da Paint,” and he has no reservations about performing them to create an incredible show. He also changed his sound and began to collaborate with Steve Aoki, producing a song called “Rage the Night Away.” What makes Flocka even more exciting is that he collaborated with TNGHT, the brainchild of headliner Hudson Mohawke. If this doesn’t scream encore performance, I don’t know what does.
When all is said and done, we aren’t going to be hearing a cutting-edge performer whose career is about to explode. But is that necessarily a bad thing? I for one am a huge fan of Flocka’s most well-known hits, which promise to provide an insane concert environment. One reddit user wrote that Waka “brought the house down!!! […]Waka had everyone dancing their asses off all night.” If you go into the concert with the expectation of lyricism and wordplay, you will leave disappointed. What you will get, though, is an incredible trip down memory lane with a banger of a soundtrack, courtesy of Mr. Waka Flocka Flame. Expect to see lots of jumping, fist pumping, and people going hard in the motherf***ing paint.
P.S. here’s some concert footage to get you even more excited.